Borobudur, Prambanan Temples Set to Become More Attractive


By : Jeannifer Filly Sumayku

Indonesia has embarked on a plan to enhance the charm of Borobudur and Prambanan temples as UNESCO steps in to underscore the importance of the world’s cultural heritage. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, collaborating with P.T. Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan, and Ratu Boko (TWC BP & RB), recently conducted a meeting to discuss the issue. The theme was “Borobudur-Prambanan, UNESCO World Cultural Heritage: Million Looks, One Location”.

As an organiser of tour packages, TWC BP & RB wanted to inform potential buyers about the forthcoming attractions of these tourist destinations. To that end the company brought in around 400 people comprising expatriates, corporate epresentatives, travel agencies, hotel managers as well as representatives from the airline industry.

Member of the European Parliament and the Multimedia Winner of the Cannes Festival, Dr. Titus Leber, presented the outlines of a project he was working on to “take Borobudur to cyberspace.” The aim is to enable Internetizens to get complete information about the popular tourist destination in an interactive way. This project also enables Indonesia to send out cultural messages for various purposes.

The film that Leber presented was entitled Borobudur: Path to Enlightenment. Meanwhile, Toni Tack, a noted archeologist and consultant for the Indonesian private company, also presented her work, Unveiling the Mystery of Borobudur. The audience was enthusiastic about the plan to enhance the charms of these two temples. The Borobudur is regarded as a sacred place and the effigies of Buddha therein represent the sanctity of the temple.

Toni raised her concern over the fact that some people were in the habit of smoking in front of the Buddha effigy while others rampantly urinated in the compound. A representative of the Philippines Embassy in Jakarta responded to this by saying that the government should educate local people in order to respect the sanctity of the temple.

UNESCO, whose task is to help preserve cultural heritage around the globe, is working to make sure that the Indonesian temples will remain as the world’s cultural heritage for international tourists to visit. The UN organization aims to prevent the temples from being damaged. It has for more than a decade included the two temples on its list of the world’s cultural heritage, and has been cooperating with the Indonesian government to preserve the objects.

Borobudur has been renovated several times. The first renovation took place in 1907-1911 and the second by UNESCO in 1972.
The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, after which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once renovation activities had been completed, it became known that 27 countries had participated in the project.

UNESCO again extended a helping hand when the temples were damaged by a powerful earthquake that jolted Central Java in May 2006. President Director of TWC BP & RB, Purnomo Siswoprasetyo, says that the company plans to implement what is called MICE, an acronym for Meeting, Incentive, Convention, and Exhibition tours.

Targeted buyers include multinational corporations, professional and business organizations, expatriate communities, state-owned corporations, and other interested circles. Travel operators are hoping to see a greater number of tourists visit Borobudur and Prambanan this year. They expect at least a 20% increase in the number of visitors to Borobudur.

Last year, a total of 2.5 million international tourists visited Borobudur while Prambanan was the destination of more than one million tourists. Borobudur, the world’s largest Mahayana Buddhist monument of the ninth century, measures 123×123 meters. It has 1,460 relief panels and 504 Buddha effigies. According to historical records, Borobudur was built by King Samaratungga, one of the rulers of Old Mataram Kingdom and a descendant of Sailendra dynasty.

Based on Kayumwungan inscription, construction of Borobudur was completed on May 26, 824, almost 100 years after it began. The monument is a shrine to the Lord Buddha and has for centuries been recognized as a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. Historical evidence suggests that Borobudur was once abandoned after the 14th century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms following the arrival of Islamic traders on the island of Java.

But in 1814 Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles—the then British ruler of Southeast Asia—made it known to the world after he had learned about the precise location of the temple through native Indonesians.